User Generated Content Is The Most Convincing Ad

Instagram influencers. We all hate them, precisely because we envy them. They’re apparently rich, have adoring fans, perfect wardrobes, and — most irritatingly of all — they seem to have the ability to pick up and go anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. Paris, Turks and Caicos, Disney World. Rome. All the pictures and Instagram stories are glossy and seductive, but then the inevitable questions arise. Who are these people? Don’t they have jobs? When they file taxes, do they actually put “Instagram Influencer” on their 1040? Do they even file a 1040? Are the daiquiris a deductible expense? (Not anymore.) After this wave of bitterness and resentment, you see something that could bring you asymptotically closer to influencer status. Link in bio. The shopping icon. And the next thing you know, you have their bag or jacket or facewash in your shopping cart and you’re asking yourself if you really need to pay bills this month. (You do.)

UGC – user generated content – has the impact of being the popular person in our circle that we can’t stand but secretly want to be like. And it especially works well with travel brands. Who doesn’t want to leave the office for a day or snorkeling or a shopping spree in a sophisticated city? Crowdriff, a vendor based in Toronto, has capitalized on this natural longing to be anywhere but in an office, and has built their entire business model around helping brands find the best visual content, usually video, and creating content that resonates with users. The result is that consumers are more receptive to participating in an experience.

Often when a person opts into any experience, it’s to avoid the current situation (being alone, bored, or uncool) and reaching for a desired outcome (togetherness, fun, excitement.) Amrita Gurney, VP of marketing at CrowdRiff told me on a call that people are becoming more and more acclimated to sharing visual content as a part of their everyday lives, and travel is an experience that lends itself well to travel. “Travel itself is an experience you can really show off in a visual,” Gurney said. “So you can capture the feeling of traveling individuals very easily… travel is one of the top types of content that is being created and shared on social media.”

I spoke to Jeff Robinson, director of marketing of Visit Indy, who is passionate about tourism to his home city. He was one of Crowdriff’s first customers, and was able to take the platform and run with it to more than double hotel bookings. He shared with me the process of developing social media campaigns, and then taking that content to push out in marketing campaigns. He shared with me several videos, the bulk of which were videos made from user-generated content, stitched together over a short soundtrack with text overlay. The end result was a simple yet profound message: we’re having a blast. Grab a cooler and join us. It’s hard not to feel like you’re left out, and the obvious solution to fix this is to shove a cooler full of Coor’s light, drive to Indianapolis, and sit by the racetrack with the friends that you haven’t made yet. I’m a native New Yorker, and I admittedly don’t know much about Indiana. I knew there was a famous racetrack, but I confused the Indy 500 with NASCAR. (I like poetry, leave me alone.)

I learned that Indy 500 attracts a huge crowd of several hundred thousand people for days at a time. Creating a sense of intimacy in a crowd of hundreds of thousands is a challenge, and this is where Crowdriff and UGC made a difference. “We wanted to show [the Indy 500] from the perspective of fans, which his very hard to do with professional photography.” He elaborated, “Once we acquired enough assets through Crowdriff we can stitch together videos…and create content that feels native in Facebook and Instagram. I think a lot of times really polished, professional photography feels out of place on most platforms, and by acquiring user-generated content our ads feel like they belong and fit in our platform, and we got a really strong result out of that.”

With so much content out there, there is a need for authenticity and resonance that can’t always be created through AI and automation. People are still human and need to know that there is a human on the other side of their purchasing experience. An empathetic customer service employee isn’t always going to communicate the message that a fun-loving, smiling, group of people will on a trip. Want to join? Link in bio.        

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